Population: 59,500,000
Area: 547,030 km²
Capital: Paris
Language: French

France qualified automatically as defending champions.

Participations: (10) 1930, 1934, 1938, 1954, 1958, 1966, 1978, 1982, 1986 and 1998
Best placing: Winners 1998
Topscorer: Just Fontaine, 13 goals
More detailed history information

May 31 - FRA v SEN  in Seoul
Jun 06 - FRA v URU  in Busan
Jun 11 - FRA v DEN  in Incheon

Thierry Henry has grown immensely as a player since 1998 and is now one of the deadliest strikers in Europe. His pace has left many defenders helpless and it will take something special to stop him in this World Cup.

WCA VERDICT: Through to KO stage
The defending champions will go through here otherwise it will be one of the greatest shocks in World Cup history.


by Ruud Doevendans

    France will have the problem, that for the first time in years it will have to come out without their two real leaders: Didier Deschamps and Laurent Blanc. The first has retired and became coach of Monaco, Blanc is playing in what should be his last year at Manchester United, but quit the national team after Euro 2000. Zinedine Zidane of course is the big gun, but he is not the man that shows the way. Here is a chance for Patrick Vieira, but can he do it at the highest level?

    France, on top of that, is in Argentinaís part of the draw. Only one of them can make it to the final, and itís very well possible that they will meet early in the tournament. So itís not going to be easy for the French. Itís not a one way trip to Yokohama. Letís take a look at the players, and how they have done so far this year.

    As goalkeeper, coach Roger Lemerre is still likely to go for in-and-out of form Fabien Barthez. The baldheaded goalie has hardly ever disappointed in the national team, but the first part of the current English season has been a disaster for him. He made blunder after blunder, and seemed to have lost all his confidence. Now heís doing better, but heís still not the Barthez he was in 2000, when he saved France a couple of times. As a possible replacement, I have been impressed by Lyon-keeper Gregory Coupet, but there are other candidates as well to deputise should Barthez not fully regain his old form.

    Lilian Thuram, very experienced, is a certain starter at right-back, although I wouldnít be too surprised if Lemerre uses the Guadeloupe-born as a central defender. Stopper Desailly has hardly played and is far from his best, and the World Cup 2002 could be a station too far for him. On top of that, I have never been a great fan of Franck Leboeuf. At left-back Lizarazu is still option number one, with Vincent Candela trying to get in the team. He could as well play right-back.

    Zidane of course is certain of a central role in midfield and can still do the damage to any team. If he succeeds in playing another major role, he must be considered among the greatest players of all time. Patrick Vieira, most likely the new captain once Desailly quits the international scene, stands in for Didier Deschamps. He is big, strong and he can play. Tactically heís no Deschamps and he loses his temper still a bit too often, but he has already made a big impact in the team. Emmanuel Petit is still in contention for the second defensive spot in midfield, although heís not been able to convince at Barcelona and Chelsea. Petit though has been a constant factor for France during the years. Alongside Zidane, Arsenalís Robert Pires will be the creative man, and I can see him as one of the big stars of the tournament. Heís done great all year, can dribble and score. The man has vision.

    Up front, France has finally found the strikers they were looking for. Being very young four years ago, Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet were already very promising, now they are worldstars. Both capable of scoring goals, Henry more as the man in motion, Trezeguet more the sheer finisher of the move that has been set up by others. Compare them to the strikers France used in 1998: Guivarcíh, Diomede, Dugarry or even Djorkaeff. The new stars make a big difference. They can both score more than six goals, which has seemed to be the maximum of the last World Cups.

    France should be able to win their group quite easily, although Denmark will be no push-over. Senegal canít be a problem in the first match of the tournament, and Uruguay is always hard to beat, but France should be able to do so.


by Jan Alsos

    France has played a vital role in creating the World Cup. Its founding father Jules Rimet was French and of course his country was represented in the very first tournament in 1930. The team achieved little success in Uruguay apart from Lucien Laurent who had the honour of scoring the very first goal in World Cup history. A first round defeat against Austria four years later in Italy didnít give the French much hope of success in their own tournament in 1938, but they went on to reach the quarterfinal where they lost to eventual champions Italy.

    France failed to make their mark on a World Cup until 1958 when the great generation of Fontaine, Kopa and Vincent banged in 23 goals in six games in Sweden that summer. Just Fontaine was topscorer on 13 goals, a record that stands to this day. Only Brazil were able to beat the French who secured bronzemedals with a comfortable win over West Germany.

    France disappeared into mediocrity for many years after this and only made the World Cup twice over the next two decades - 1966 and 1978 where they were eliminated in the first round on both occasions - before 1982 when another superb generation of French players emerged. Platini, Tigana and Giresse formed arguably the best midfield in the world at the time and reached the semifinals where West Germany won in one of the most dramatic World Cup matches ever played and the first to be decided on penalties.

    The two teams clashed again in another semifinal four years later in Mexico, but France were unable to break down the German defence in a less exciting replay. France had a much tougher route to that semifinal eliminating two three-times champions Italy and Brazil on their way which could have been the reason to their lacklustre performance.

    It would take twelve years before France played in a World Cup again. Failed qualification campaigns in 1990 and 1994 hurt the game in France, but in 1998 the tournament was held on home soil. It turned out be a huge success and France, in their tenth World Cup, won the competition in style with a 3-0 victory over Brazil in the final. The cup was finally ďhomeĒ.




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